Friday, April 20, 2007

Too Soon to Call Victory for Charters

This comment on Mathew's post is exactly right.  He should have come to NY to witness the debate over lifting the charter cap!
Too Soon to Call Victory for Charters

Jay Mathews has a great post over on edspresso about why he thinks charters are a more promising long-term strategy than vouchers to expand meaningful, quality school choice for low-income children and parents. The basic point is that, while vouchers can help some kids move into better public schools, what we really need is to create a lot more, better schools in the communities where poor families live--and charter schools, which are already doing this, are a more effective mechanism here.

The one complaint I have is with Jay's comment, towards the end, that "Charters are no fun for the parties. They make too much sense to both Republicans and Democrats, and cannot be used to spark big fights." It's easy to get the impression, working in D.C., where charters are growing rapidly and benefit from strong support by predominantly-Democratic city leaders as well as bipartisan Congressional backing, that everyone's on board with charters. But if you take a look around the country it's clear that in many states charter schools remain politically polarizing and face a constant battle to fend off legislative attacks from education interests and ideological opponents. To wit, edspresso featured a link to news reports of the latest political wars over charter schooling in Ohio on their front page with Jay's post. Or what about this lovely incident two weeks back when the Chairman of the Colorado House Education Committe said charter supporters belonged in hell? Some of the blame here can be laid at the feet of quality problems within the charter school community itself, but even if I could wave my magic wand and suddenly make all charter schools high-performing, that wouldn't change the views or fury of die-hard opponents. In too many places the ability of charter schools to achieve the promise both Jay and I see in them remains hobbled by knee-jerk and narrow-minded political opposition.

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